PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Digitalism: Idealism

Digitalism truly clicks when its signature sound is all that is required to make a certain track function.


Digitalism

Idealism

Label: Astralwerks
US Release Date: 2007-06-11
UK Release Date: 2007-06-19
Amazon
iTunes

When a band gets together and decides to call itself "Digitalism", there are a certain number of assumptions being made: One, unless the name is caked in irony, there will be a rather sizable electronic component to the music that this band will compose. Two, which follows assumption one rather closely, the electronics will have a fairly uniform feel throughout, lending the band the feel of adherance to the made-up movement defined in its name. Finally, there will be a retro feel to the music, as the idea of digitally-dominated this-or-that is something that pointed toward the future 20 or 25 years ago, but seems relatively old hat today.

On these grounds, the band that has decided to call itself Digitalism succeeds on all counts. It is unquestionably electronic in ways that propogate throughout its debut album Idealism, complete with plenty of the "new wave" bands like New Order and Information Society that paved the way for the idea that this sort of music could one day be thought of as "retro".

Unfortunately, these guidelines don't include soul. These guidelines don't include pop hooks, or lyrical flourish, or instrumental virtuosity. Digitalism, in turn, also provides none of these things.

Purveyors of a sound, the two halves of Digitalism (Jens Moelle and Ismail Tuefekci) truly clicks when the sound is all that is required to make a certain track function. Example: Closing track "Echoes" is a perfect little techno-influenced track that features no words whatsoever; it simply shows up, establishes a techno-influenced beat, tosses in a few heavily-affected synth-derived melodies, and ends. It's like Daft Punk with more melody and fewer tongues in cheeks. "Pogo" works on this level as well -- it's teeming with those strutting guitar lines that the boys in Franz Ferdinand just play the hell out of, the vocals are one part David Byrne and one part Devo while the lyrics say absolutely nothing at all, and the proper dance that one should perform while listening to it is explained in its one-word title. There's no hidden subtext, there's no aspiration toward artistic legitimacy, just... "Pogo". If only more modern music could be so user-friendly.

The problem, then, is that Digitalism has a habit of doing just the opposite of what makes "Pogo" so fun. Starting the album with "Magnets" is a bad first impression to make. "Magnets" is all cut-up, repeated vocals and glitchy noises, slowly developing and revealing itself to be superficially danceable but not much fun at all. As the album progresses, certain themes keep coming up; Cairo, Jupiter, and lots of dance beats should make for a wonderful little journey, but the connections between the three are never apparent. The connotation of those locales would lean toward the exotic; the execution, by contrast, seems rote. By the time the retro spelling lesson that encompasses the entirety of "Digitalism in Cairo"'s lyrical content is audible enough to figure out ("F-I-R-E-I-N-C-A-I-R-O"...oh! The Cure! I get it!), you wonder why you even bothered to figure out what was being said.

And good god. "Apollo-Gize"? Are we really attempting sensitivity on an album devoid of any feeling whatsoever?

If nothing else, maybe "Apollo-Gize" might just be the proof that Digitalism is, generally at least, sticking to what it's "good" at. When they try to inject emotion and feeling into the equation, they come off as insincere and more than a little cheesy. Avoiding moments like "Apollo-Gize" could easily become priority #1 for a band of this nature. Even if there was no "Apollo-Gize" on Idealism, however, it wouldn't make what's left any more interesting. Digitalism has done enough with Idealism to define itself and its sound; now they just need to make that sound palatable enough for people to actually want to hear it more than once.

3

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.